This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Dowry in India: Putting The Institution of Marriage at Stake

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Sampa Kundu:

Dowry is a social evil which is ‘hated’ by most of the ‘educated’ Indians but ‘practiced’ very proudly in their own lives. It shows the crude difference between theory and reality, delivering a speech and living that out, ethics and practicality.

Dowry is over-discussed, but still remains prevalent in our society with all its strength. Dowry is such a nuisance which has been making our daughters a burden to their parents. How can the poor couples living in the poverty-stricken rural India indulge the thought of giving birth to a female child while they themselves are victims of this awful custom of dowry? It is a nightmare for them, having a daughter as they know that they have to accumulate a significant amount of money as dowry to be given during their daughter’s marriage, which would not be possible for them in a normal way. They are so poor that they cannot afford to pay dowry. And, even today, marriage in rural India and to an extent, in urban India also is impossible without dowry and women’s status in the society and family are connected to her marriage. Unfortunately and unreasonably, a woman remains secluded and sometimes cursed by the family members, neighbours and others if she is not married at a ‘proper’ age. To an extent, dowry is responsible for many other social evils like female infanticides, killing of female babies immediately after birth, early marriage, various sorts of domestic violence against women, bride burning and so on and so forth. The statistics presented below will show the incidence of dowry deaths in India.

Table 1
Table 2

It is evident from Table 1 that dowry deaths had been on the rise from 2006 to 2008 at the national level. Table 2 indicates the states where dowry deaths are high amongst others in India. It shows that dowry deaths are increasing in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Orissa and West Bengal also have high rates of dowry deaths. Point to note is that these are only the reported cases; the actual number may differ from it.

The origin of dowry is found in our past. According to Sonia Dalmia and Pareena G. Lawrence (2005), The Hindu Law of Mitakshara encouraged the custom of dowry in ancient India which guaranteed a son’s inheritance to his parents’ property at birth, but the girls were not entitled to the parental possessions. In such a situation, the system of giving daughter a handsome amount of money at an appropriate time, usually at her marriage, was a kind of compensation to the inheritance system. Followed, the daughter did not have any right over her parents’ property. It helped preventing division in the family belongings, particularly the immovable ones like land, house etc. as dowry generally consisted of movable properties.

There were three upper caste practices in India namely Kanyadhana, Varadakshina and Stridhana which also supports dowry. Gifts to virgin bride was called Kanyadhana, whereas voluntary gifts given by the bride’s father to the groom was conceived as varadakshina and voluantary gifts given by the relatives and others to the bride was Stridhana (P. Srinivasan and Gary R. Lee : 2004). In all, these were contributions to the groom and his family from the bride’s side, no matter they were voluntary or non-voluntary.

The modern India could not go far from ancient India in the sense that girls are not treated equal to boys and dowry is considered to be an integral part of marriage even today. The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 did a little to eliminate it from our society.

You must be to comment.
  1. Barkha sethi

    dowery was given in past as love of the parents towards theri daughters. they did it si that their duaghters must not face any kind of problems in their new home. but this trend chnged to a compulsion which reined the life of females….
    they were and still are not married, in some cases, for marriage purpose but just for dowery in the form of cash in hand or costly luxurious items or, specially, sponsering for going abroad……..

    this is very shameful for boys…

  2. Suprava Banerjee

    I think dowry is nothing but an extension of begging alms, the difference here is the beggars ask(beg) for expensive commodities and hard cash and they are so called educated or well brought up beings..i think more than the govt we individuals have a major role to play.If the girls of our society become stern,half the battle is won here..and for the people supporting,seeking,asking dowry…have some self respect…stop begging…

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By India Development Review (IDR)

By Jyotsna Richhariya

By IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below